In an attempt to address a years-long home run surge, MLB slightly deadened its baseballs for the 2021 season. Rawlings was instructed to loosen the tension on the first of three wool windings within the ball, which reduced its weight without changing its size.
The league expected the changes to be subtle, but the baseballs were noticeably lighter and did not travel as far off the bat. Various players noted throughout the year that they could tell the baseballs in play also had a different feel.
While the initial plan was to use the remodeled baseball for the entire year, a study by astrophysicist Meredith Wills found that MLB actually used two different baseballs. The league attributed the issue to production delays caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
That won’t be an issue this year as MLB confirmed in a memo only baseballs manufactured after the 2021 production change are being used this season, per Eno Sarris and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic:
In a March 29 memo sent to general managers, assistant GMs, managers, clubhouse managers and heads of stadium operations, the commissioner’s office said, “Those production issues have now been resolved and the 2022 season will be played with only balls manufactured after the 2021 production change. No manufacturing changes have been made for the 2022 season.”
The new baseball, which is lighter compared to the one used at the start of the 2021 season, has brought offensive numbers down to levels not seen since the 1980s. The home run rate has returned to where it was in the mid-2010s, strikeouts are up and the league-wide batting average is down.
On the flip side, the new ball is currently producing the highest average exit velocity in the Statcast era. Though, that also has come with some of the highest drag numbers, which means lesser distance on batted balls.
All 30 MLB teams using humidor for 2022 season
Perhaps also affecting offensive numbers this season is the fact that all 30 MLB teams are storing their baseballs in a humidor prior to their games in an effort to control some of the inconsistencies between them.
Humidors work by bringing baseballs to an average humidity, which means in a dry park, baseballs will become more humid, and thus heavier. In humid parks, however, a humidor will dry out the baseballs and make them lighter.
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